Thursday, August 7, 2008

Jazmine Cafe

Two posts in one day, y'all are getting spoiled. Don't get used to it, once I find a job I am sure the posts will slow. Ironically, that will also be the time in which I actually have money to go out so people aren't always paying for me. What a sad truth, oh well.
I went with three other people from the team to a Vietnamese restaurant named Jazmine Cafe for lunch today. Dave and Jessica, a couple on the team recommended the place so I visited with some high expectations. I settled on a lunch special, Vegtable Summer Roll Noodle Salad Bowl (Bun Cha Gio Chay), and opted for the soup (chicken broth with vegetables) rather than the salad since I had a poor salad experience the day before. I noticed that the restaurant had bubble tea slushies and I have been looking for some good boba drinks so I decided to try the Green Apple slushy with tapioca. I don’t usually like the slushy drinks because they make the boba hard, are sweeter, and as the drink melts the taste deteriorates. All these things were true of this drink, but I expected it so I wasn’t disappointed. I prefer a simple milk tea with boba, but I don’t have a whole lot of choices in New Orleans so I thought I would try it anyways. I was excited when I had finished the liquid and what was left was thawed bobas, that was a pleasant surprise at the end.

The soup was really good, the broth was so flavorful. My friend Jessica says that the soups are really good here and that when the weather starts to cool off it is definitely worth trying more of the soups. I think I will, based on this experience I am happy to return for more.

My lunch was quite good, too. It was so filling and for a good price, only $6.25+tax for the food. The sauce/dressing they provided I think was lacking in flavor which made the noodles pretty bland. Some people like the dressing lite but I prefer something with more flavor to hide the lack of flavor that noodles naturally have.

Curry Corner

Ever since One Dollar Curry House opened on Oxford in Berkeley I have found myself regularly craving Indian curry, so when I noticed that there was a curry place across the street from Rue de La Course I promised myself I would check it out sometime. After passing by several times I finally decided yesterday that I had gone too long without curry and I caved. The restaurant is new so no one I talked to had tried it, so I went in hoping for the best. Unfortunately, I was not impressed and the food only made me crave more curry, better curry, rather than appeasing my appetite. The two workers were friendly and nice, and to be honest I felt bad for the business because I was the only person there. For all I know they could have had a really big lunch rush, I went at an awkward time of 4:20pm so it does make sense that the place was not overflowing with customers. Nevertheless, when I entered the restaurant and the workers immediately offered me assistance I felt compelled to buy. I looked at the menu and cringed when I saw the prices, $8.95 for Chicken Masala! I know that curry is generally expensive, but I am more comfortable with paying around $6 especially since I will need to buy naan. But, for $8.95+tax I got rice, chicken masala, and something with spinach, plus a small side salad. The rice was fine, the chicken masala was spicy and good, and the spinach stuff was a good combination. The side salad was small and the leaves were reddish, and over all the portions for all the food was small. I also purchased a naan for an additional $1 and the total came out to be $10.85. Now, that sounds like a reasonable price to some and as I said the food was alright, but the quality of the food was comparable to one dollar curry house where I pay less than $5 for curry and naan and even though the food is not near Naan ‘n Curry quality, atleast the quality matches the cost. As I said the portions were really small and the naan was so small, it was about the size of a medium flour tortilla which even for the small servings they provided was not enough to finish my curry. The place is set up like an express Chinese food place, where they have the food already cooked so you can grab and go. This is convenient, but it means you are paying for food that is of a lower quality because it is not fresh. The menu at the restaurant is constantly changing, so this means if you try something you don’t like chances are the next time you go that item will not be on the menu, so variety is a plus.

Here is a picture of the food. Indian curry, I think, always looks bad in pictures but maybe you’ll think it looks good.

Monday, August 4, 2008

chapter 1 of New Orleans food

I have now been to a few New Orleans places and rather than writing one for each I will compile them all into one entry. My hope is that I will re-visit these places and write individual posts that give them the individual attention they deserve.

1) Lebanon's: rather than chips and salsa or bread and olive oil you get as a starter at Mexican or Italian restaurants, this place offers pita bread and hummus to customers. I quite enjoy hummus and pita so this was a wonderful surprise, and I discovered that you can request wheat pita if you are after a healthier alternative. A couple people I went with raved about the spinach salad which to be honest looked amazing, but I decided to try a falafel. The falafel was good, the hummus was a bit too tangy for my likings so I was unable to finish that last couple bites. It was a filling meal that ended up being messier than I had expected

2) Neutral Ground Coffeehouse: I'm not entirely sure how to accurately describe this place because I've never been to a place like it before. It has the vibe of a very mellow Albatross in that it provides an atmosphere of playing board games, only it is not nearly as crowded or loud. But, it is a coffeehouse, not a bar. I went on a Sunday because Sunday night the coffeehouse has open mic night beginning at 7:30pm. There is actually a bible study that meets on Sundays at 7pm at the coffeehouse and I ended up going with some friends who attend the church that hosts the study, we went to hear the study and stay to watch some friends perform at open mic. I have to be honest I didn't actually buy anything because I am still looking for a job thus money is limited, but the atmosphere at the place was so great that once I have a job I am totally hoping to spend some money on lattes and teas. The performances were really good, too. There were a couple performers who are from New Orleans, so their songs were about the city and the people and the experiences. I love when performers are completely vulnerable and you can tell that they are singing straight from their heart. John Earl is one of my favorite performers of the night and the reaction of the crowd when he finished made it clear that I was not the only one in the place who thoroughly enjoyed the performance. He opened with a song called Suicide Rewind about a suicide attempt turned into a call for God, it was a really big song to start with but it showed the audience that he was for real. Another song he sang was Gold Beneath Your Feet which was inspired by the sirens that ring along the streets of New Orleans, it is a song that reminded me of how much people love this city and how much they yearn to see a brighter day for the city, and that's a cry I share.
My words really don't properly convey John Earls talent.

3) Juan's Flying Burrito: Pretty good Mexican food, I ordered something simple because the Popeyes from the night before had kind of made me hate myself.
side note: I like Popeyes, I mean its fried food so its kind of hard to say no but the truth is that it is one of those foods that after you eat it you immediatly regret the decision because the grease kind of makes your insides cry.
Anyways, at Juan's Flying Burrito I ordered bean tacos and opted for an avocado addition (I'm from California, I HAVE to have my avocado!). The avocado was a little brown but it wasn't bad. I have to continually remind myself that California is an anomaly and that I shouldn't be disappointed if produce in other places does not live up to the high standards I have acquired as a California-native. The truth is that the tacos were good, a little greasy and the filling was more than the wheat tortillas could carry which made it a bit of a mess, but the meal was good and I will be re-visiting the place because I liked it so much. The chips and salsa were good, too, the chips weren't too salty which I found is a common problem and the salsa was just the right amount of hot for my taste buds to handle. I know this review lacks enthusiasm and I am probably not doing a very good job of convincing people that it is worth visiting, but I think its worth checking out because I have heard numerous people talk it up.

4) Rue de La Course: I actually visited this cafe for the first time two years ago when I was down for summer project, it was the first place I visited with my Bible study so it has this special place in my heart. Today when I went back for a team meeting it had a nostalgic feel. It is in a really nice (in an old sense) building that was once a bank. The ceilings are very high and decorated in wood etchings. The cafe is actually pretty popular among medical students (so I hear, and I did see a couple people in scrubs while I was there). It vaguely reminds me of Morrison reading room although I am not entirely sure, I think it must be something in the design and the fact that it was filled with people reading. I had an Iced Chai which was good, but expensive. I spent $4 on a medium and the thing with this place is that the menu doesn't list prices so you are unpleasantly surprised by the total after you have already put in the order. I recommend coming here to study because the atmosphere promotes that, but bring your own drink and if you feel guilty about being there and not buying a drink, go with a frivolous friend who will by a drink. BONUS *This place does have WiFi*

Good grief, only four days in New Orleans and I already have four places to talk about. I need to slow down or else I'm going to pull something.